U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is the butt of a Russian joke.
It's a pity, really. The former Texas governor and presidential wannabe was putting his most statesman-like foot forward on a recent long call with the Ukrainian prime minister earlier this month. Perry talked about expanding American coal exports, then kicked around the Paris Climate Accord before veering into a subject that he feels has real possibilities: the chance of using pig manure as a power source.
Perry must have counted the 22-minute conversation a real success, yet another sign that the boy from Haskell, Texas, the former governor whose political career seemed to be dead as a doornail this time last year, was once again rising, like a phoenix from ashes, with his perfect hair intact.
Of course, it turns out the call was not with Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. It was actually a pair of Russian comedians, Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, pretending to be Groysman.
The duo recorded the conversation with Perry, and the entire exchange, pig manure and all, was posted at an online Russian news site, Vesti.
Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes confirmed that the phone call was real, according to the Associated Press. In fact, this is a bit that Kuznetsov and Stolyarov (known professionally as Vovan and Lexus for reasons that remain unclear) have pulled many times on high-ranking officials and famous people who are promoting agendas not in line with the priorities of the Russian government.
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In this case, the Russians are decidedly underwhelmed with anything that even smells like Ukraine gaining real energy security. (It's an incredibly touchy and contentious issue. Ever since the Soviet Union broke up and Ukraine became its own country, Russia has been running oil and gas through Ukraine via a series of pipelines. Thus, Ukraine and Russia have been fighting for years over various gas and oil disputes. From time to time, usually in the dead of winter, Russia has cut off the gas supply running into Ukraine, and thus the rest of Europe, when the two have been unable to negotiate payment agreements.)
So yeah, Perry has now joined Representative Maxine Waters and Senator John McCain in receiving the dubious honor of being people the Russian comedians, known as Vovan and Lexus, have thought were either important enough or gullible enough to be worth pranking.
But props to Perry for taking the opportunity that he thought he had at the time to try to push a pig manure solution to the Ukraine energy issue. It's both creative and hilarious. And who knows, maybe the Ukrainian prime minister will actually take Perry's advice and look into it. If that happens, and Perry doesn't get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, let's hope he gets some sort of consolation prize. Maybe he'll get a trip to visit the pig manure energy sites in Ukraine.
However, Perry should be careful about accepting any such invitation. Being fooled by a couple of Russian state-sponsored funny men once is one thing, but showing up in Ukraine because the funny men once again posed as the Ukrainian prime minister and invited Perry to see some pig manure energy farms, now that would be truly embarrassing.